Whiplash – what is it, what to expect, how it occurs?

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Whiplash – what is it, what to expect, how it occurs?


Whiplash is a traumatic neck injury, due to rapid movement of the head back and forth or sideways. Likewise to the cracking of a whip. The neck area encompasses many muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, discs and nerves. Severe trauma to this area clearly has a great chance of causing damage to the integral components. Vigorous movement of the head can stretch and injure the precious ligaments and/or tendons. This may not seem as common as a sprained ankle or twisted knee, but whiplash is very possible in many different scenarios, including on the sporting field.

The most common cause of whiplash is a motor vehicle accident. The body can reach higher acceleration and deceleration with the aid of a vehicle than normal, resulting in serious whiplash. Likewise, a sudden blow to the head can cause the violent throw of the head. This is seen in many contact sports such as boxing, rugby, hockey and martial arts. Additionally, a slip, fall or striking of the head are also causes of this condition. Basically, anything that can potentially move your head forcefully is a risk for whiplash.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of whiplash can be hard to spot initially, sometimes taking up to six to twelve hours for them to develop. Here are some of the key signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Headache
  • Painful neck and head movements
  • Tenderness over the muscles in the neck
  • Loss of range of motion
  • Altered sensation such as numbness and/or tingling
  • Visual disturbances
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech difficulties

If you have had any of these symptoms present after a serious head knock, it is recommended to seek professional medical help. This can be at a local GP clinic or with Emergency services depending on the severity and risk of the injury. It is important to be prompt in reporting these to medical staff as further damage may be sustained if it is left untreated.

Physiotherapy for whiplash is extremely beneficial for you to achieve your functionality back as swiftly as possible. This involves exercise to encourage flexibility, strengthening your neck and back muscles, posture improvement, improve your ability to cope with daily activities, normalise your range of motion and reduce the risk of sustaining future injury or disability. The physiotherapists here at Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy will be able to work with your individual needs, taking into account your pain, goals and current physical presentation. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on (07) 3352 5116.

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